As the stage is set for the launch of first of the five poll guarantees, ‘Shakti’, offering free travel in government buses for women in Karnataka, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Saturday clarified that they can travel up to 20 km inside the border states free of cost and not beyond that.
The Chief Minister said he along with Deputy Chief Minister D K Shivakumar and Transport Minister Ramalinga Reddy will launch the scheme from Vidhana Soudha on Sunday.
“We are launching one of the five guarantees at Vidhana Soudha at 11 AM. All women will be entitled to travel within the state free of cost in all the (state-owned) buses other than AC and Volvo including express bus services,” Siddaramaiah told reporters.
“If women want to travel in inter-state bus then the service is not free, the Chief Minister said adding, if a woman wishes to go to Tirupati, she cannot travel free of cost. She can go up to Mulbagal (Kolar district bordering Andhra Pradesh) and after that it’s not available,” he explained.
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However those travelling up to 20 km inside the neighbouring states will not be charged.
“For example, from Ballari to 20 km inside Andhra Pradesh, they (women) can go free of cost,” Siddaramaiah said.
Explaining about the launch of four other guarantees, the Chief Minister said ‘Gruha Jyoti’ offering 200 free units of electricity to domestic consumers will be launched from Kalaburagi from July 1.
The same day, ‘Anna Bhagya’ scheme offering 10 kg free rice or food grain to the BPL families will be launched from Mysuru.
Regarding ‘Gruha Lakshmi’ scheme (Providing monthly financial assistance of Rs.2,000 to the head woman of a house), the Chief Minister said it will be launched on August 16 from the district headquarter town of Belagavi.
“We will call for applications for Gruha Lakshmi scheme from July 15, which will be processed till August 15. After that, we will launch it from August 16, most likely in Belagavi,” he said.
About ‘Yuva Nidhi’ scheme offering unemployment allowance of Rs 3,000 to the graduates and Rs 1,500 to the diploma holders, Siddaramaiah said those graduates and diploma holders who passed the exams in 2022-23 will get the allowance for 24 months if they do not get job within six months of passing their exam.
“We will give them allowance for 24 months. They have to find a job within the time. If they get a job either in government or private sector, then the allowance will be stopped,” the Chief Minister clarified.
When asked how the government will ascertain that the beneficiary has got the job, he said, “Do you think government will not know? We will gather all the information. We will take action against those making false declaration.”
To a question on the financial health of the state to implement these schemes, Siddaramaiah counter posed the reporter, “Why do you bother about government’s headache? We will definitely do it.”
About the BJP’s allegation that the state’s treasury will be empty to fulfill these guarantees, the Chief Minister charged that the BJP did not do anything when in power and now it was simply issuing statements.
“Did they (BJP) do anything? I am the Finance Minister. Who are they (BJP) to say?” he said.
Regarding people complaining that they were getting hefty electricity bills, Siddaramaiah clarified that the Karnataka Electricity Regulatory Commission revises the electricity tariff in March or April every year and implements it in June.
This year too it was hiked even before the Congress came to power. Due to model code of conduct for the 2023 assembly elections, which came into effect from March 29, the revision of power tariff was put on hold. Now it will be implemented from June.
Replying to a query on ‘Gruha Jyoti’ scheme, Siddaramaiah said it was not mandatory to avail free electricity as some people may opt for it and others give it up.
“If you say that you don’t want it then why should I insist for it?” he explained.
According to Siddaramaiah, the electricity is free up to 200 units but everyone does not use 200 units of power because average domestic electricity consumption in the state is 53 units only.
“Some may spend 65 units, 70 units or 80 units. Whatever average power you consume, we will give 10 per cent extra unit. People are saying 200 units free power is being given. But your consumption is 80 units. Why will you take 200 units? If we give 200 units free, then people will misuse it. So, it should not happen,” the Chief Minister pointed out.